User Experience/Search. User
experience and information architecture are a significant challenge.
Information should be presented in a meaningul way. Typically this involves
a fair amount of custom user interface design to meet the needs of a
particular application domain. Though not stricly a user interface issue,
search also impacts the user experience greatly, perhaps more so than the
site design itself. Does the user easily find what she wants? Sites that are
not easy to use and search will simply not be used. The search engine design
is typically non-trivial and is tied to the complexities of catalog
rationalization and integration.
Supplier Integration and Catalog
Management. Catalog management is also a significant challenge both in
terms of the underlying data management infrastructure and a company's
ability to rationalize the data from a wide range of suppliers to
facilitate search and comparison.
Workflow. B2B ventures will typically
need to support some level of purchasing approval or workflow.
Designing a custom workflow engine or choosing an appropriate third-party
product can be a challenge. Typically, the workflow needs to highly
customizable given each user's individual business processes. Typically, the
integration of third-party product is non-trivial.
Business Process Modeling and Optimization.
You need to understand, document, model, and streamline your business
processes. Just as it is important for the backend infrastructure to scale
under load, business processes must be engineered to scale and take
advantage of online automation.
Fulfillment. Some sites may need to
track fulfillment status, such as fills, partial fills, backorders, and
shipping status. Some sites may go further and need to optimize inventory
management and the supply chain to avoid stock outs, support just-in-time
manufacturing, or provide best pricing. Many sites
will need to foster some degree of self-service customer service where order
status and transaction history may be viewed.
Payment. The check out process
requires electronic payment and tax calculation. While there are many
third-party solutions to solve these problems, they can be difficult to
integrate or limited in terms of their functionality.
Regulatory Compliance. Some companies
will have compliance issues beyond tax, requiring a compliance engine to be
developed. (We developed one for Wineshopper)
Backend Infrastructure. All successful
sites will need to design a backend that provides excellent customer
response times and scalable transaction throughput. Common issues here
center on the search engine design, caching strategy, application server
architecture, reuse of components, and system architecture. Many sites that
expect increasing site load should conduct a capacity planning study. We
share our insight into mission-critical application development and system
scalability to make sure a site backend is reliable and scalable. We advise
on the range of hardware/software technologies, communication, database,
e-commerce, componentware, XML and middleware, that an e-commerce or
internet startup needs to model, implement, and automate their business
Partner Integration. Sites may
need to integrate with a variety of partner systems. This can involve custom
protocol development using XML, the integration of an industry standard
protocol such as cXML, the integration of XML server or other middleware.
Decision Support. Many sites need to
provide some level of decision support and business intelligence. Your order
database quickly becomes a datawarehouse that you must use to manage your
supply chain. Furthermore, your backend must be able to provide the
value-add services that will retain your customers.
Assess Your Situation:
Do you have a clear understanding
of your competitive position, requirements, strategy, and business processes?
How will you balance buyer and supplier features? How will you rationalize
supplier catalog data? How will
you manage exceptions, such as returns, back orders, and partial
fills? How will you fulfill orders in a reliable and efficient manner? How will
you comply with tax law and other regulations? How will you stay
on top of changes to the tax codes and shipping and handling calculations?
Is your mission-critical backend reliable? Will it scale under load? Have
you assessed operational characteristics, points of failure, and recovery strategies?
Do you have a robust communications and notification architecture?
Are your customers getting the
quality of service they expect? Will you be able to provide the value-added services
they will want?
Does your investment in technology give you the
decision support you need?
Has someone outside our organization reviewed
your technical architecture?
Ariba Solutions Advisory
ATG Commerce Solutions Advisory
Custom Product Development
Business and Technical Strategy Assessments: Scope, Risk,
Business and Technical Requirements
Business Process Engineering
Scoping Documents, Functional and Detailed Design Specifications
Application/System Architectures: Documentation, Roadmaps, Technical
Hardware/Software Selections: RFP Development, Vendor
System Integration: Databases, Application Servers,
Middleware, XML Partner Integration Frameworks
Stress Testing and Benchmarks
Prototypes and Pilots